It’s December, and what does that mean? For the 18 million Jewish people around the world, it means Hanukkah: eight nights of jelly doughnuts, potato pancakes, and “gifts” of underwear and socks from your mother.
Now that it’s time to pop on your ugly Hanukkah sweater (because everyone bought one that says “get lit” a few years ago), you need something to watch. While there are some killer Hanukkah movies — Full-Court Miracle, Eight Crazy Nights, Meet the Fockers — Hanukkah television specials are often hard to come by.
Lizzie McGuire, Kim Possible, and Phineas and Ferb have Christmas specials that possess a strong Hanukkah presence in them, but they’re still very much Christmas episodes. So here are the eight best Hanukkah specials to watch with your old Hebrew school friends, your bubbe, or that NJB (nice Jewish boy) from across the hall.
- Friends, “The One With The Holiday Armadillo” (Season 7, Episode 10)
Before Cole Sprouse was Cody or Jughead, he was Ben Geller on Friends, learning about Hanukkah from the “Holiday Armadillo.” It’s easy to forget that Ross, Rachel and Monica were Jewish, but this episode cements that they’re members of the tribe as Ross tries to teach Ben about Hanukkah. Instead of Ben’s desired visit from Santa Claus, Ross dresses up as the “Hanukkah Armadillo,” and they light the menorah together at the end of the episode. This is the Hebrew school lesson you wished you had back in the day.
- The O.C., “The Best Chrismukkah Ever” (Season 1, Episode 13)
Seth Cohen is the ultimate NJB. Smart, dreamy, and a lover of bagels, Seth is the boy you want to bring home to mom. The O.C. is one of the few shows that had an annual Hanukkah episode to celebrate the Cohens’ heritage. The first of these episodes introduces you to “Chrismukkah,” what Seth refers to as the “greatest super-holiday known to mankind,” which is a combination holiday between Hanukkah and Christmas. This episode is full of drama, celebration and family, making it a must-watch for any teen TV fanatics.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “My Mom, Greg’s Mom and Josh’s Sweet Dance Moves!” (Season 1, Episode 8)
For a show driven by the theatrics, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is four seasons of raw emotions, and its Hanukkah episode is just that. This episode shows you just how difficult the holiday season can be for many people, as we follow Rebecca’s mom who comes to West Covina to visit her daughter for the holiday. Rebecca spends the entire episode trying to please Mrs. Bunch, no matter how harmful she’s being to herself. In a real holiday special ending, Rebecca realizes that her mother does truly love her and the true meaning of family.
For anyone looking to spice up their Festival of Lights music selection beyond “I Have a Little Dreidel,” Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom has a Hanukkah album, which is truly iconic.
- The Goldbergs, “A Christmas Story” (Season 3, Episode 10)
For anyone who watches ABC weeknight comedies, you know that The Goldbergs is one of the funniest shows on television. It’s another show that features a yearly Hanukkah episode, but the first one they did takes the cake as the best. In order to compete with her Christmas-celebrating neighbors, Beverly creates “Super Hanukkah” in order to win over her children. She strings up blue and white twinkle lights, puts menorahs and Jewish stars in every place possible, and even presents under a Hanukkah Bush. In the end, Super Hanukkah doesn’t go as planned, but the family all comes together with Christmas at a Chinese restaurant.
For a close runner-up, check out season five, episode 10 of The Goldbergs, titled “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” This is another over-the-top Hanukkah display to compete with the mother of her daughter’s boyfriend, Geoff.
- The Rugrats, “A Rugrats Chanukah” (Season 4, Episode 1)
Out of any of the Hanukkah specials on this list, none have been as widely watched as the Rugrats Hanukkah episode, which has been devoured by every Jewish child numerous times. No Hanukkah is complete without these 22 minutes of glory. This is the best way to learn about our Jewish “forefathers, and their five fathers, and their six fathers,” as each of the rugrats play a different role in the Macabee story. Grandma Mink and Grandpa Boris walk us through the story of Hanukkah and the true meaning of the holiday. Not only was this many Jewish kids’ first time seeing Jewish stories in pop culture, but it also posed the question of how to spell Hanukkah. Chanukah?
- The Nanny, “The Hanukkah Story” (Season 6, Episode 10)
Fran Fine is the Jewish mother we all wish we had; as a Jewish girl with a mother from Flushing, Queens, I know exactly what that feels like, and nothing feels more at home than hearing Fran yell “Mr. Sheffield!” In its final season, The Nanny had its only Hanukkah episode, which saw a modern twist on the Hanukkah story. While coming home, Mr. Sheffield’s car gets stuck in a snowstorm, but the oil in the car, which he only has enough of for one hour, lasts for eight. This miracle allows him to come home and celebrate with Fran, who’s surprisingly praying with a nun.
- The League, “The Eight Defensive Points of Hanukkah” (Season 5, Episode 13)
The League’s two-part tribute to Hanukkah begins with “Baby Geoffrey Jesus,” which opens many of the storylines that this episode contronts. Nick Kroll’s Ruxin is upset when his son is cast as Jesus in a Catholic school play. He wants Geoffrey to practice Judaism, just as he does. This episode is full of laughs, coming together, and a guest appearance by Aziz Ansari.
- Even Stevens, “Heck of a Hanukkah” (Season 1, Episode 15)
Shia LeBoeuf is that guy you met at youth group who everyone talks about behind his back even though it’s been 10 years since anyone has seen him. On Even Stevens, LeBoeuf’s Louis is not as eccentric as his portrayer, but still an iconic Jewish figure. Louis opens his siblings’ Hanukkah presents and somehow (the general laws of gravity do not apply in most Even Stevens episodes) they all fall out the window and break. After being grounded, Louis starts to believe that his family would be better off if he was not born, but then his great-great-great-great grandmother Bubbe Rose shows him how much he is loved.
Representation is so important, and while there are many Jewish characters on screen, they’re often relegated to the sidekick or the comedic relief. While I hope that there are more Hanukkah specials each year (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I’m looking at you), these are the best at getting you in the spirit to spin the dreidel and nosh on latkes (and the answer is sour cream – applesauce on latkes is a disgrace).